Standardized testing is not about grades. It’s about aptitude—the ability to learn something new. Aptitude testing also assesses the development or proficiency in a specific area (if provided with education or training) Aptitude is an individual’s “talent” to accomplish a task.

Aptitude testing is quite different from achievement testing, which measures how much an individual has achieved or learned. This includes knowing certain information or mastering a certain skill. Achievement testing normally results from planned classroom instruction. It measures the amount of knowledge that a person has learned. Achievement tests are given in schools to measure how much information students have mastered.

Strong Test-Takers are Strong Readers

Most parts of the ACT and SAT are based on aptitude, although this is debatable. Here is the reason: ACT and SAT testing provide new information and students answer questions based on the presented information. This is considered aptitude because students are evaluated on their ability to learn something new. However, because these tests involve reading, one can say that they are achievement tests because they are measuring reading skills.

Most secondary schools do not teach reading. So, as a language arts professional, I regard the reading portions as aptitude tests. Students must possess a “reading talent” to pass the science, English, and reading portions on these exams. The math portion on both SAT and ACT exams are more achievement-based because students need specific math skills to do well.

Because most math questions require reading, many students who are high achievers with mathematical concepts (even those in AP Calculus) may find themselves struggling on the math portion. This is because they have not mastered reading aptitude. This is all a very grey area, and I still find myself thinking in circles.

The bottom line is this: whether college exams require aptitude or achievement, they are both important components for getting into the right college. Colleges need to assess whether a student is the “right fit” for certain college rigor.

Over the past 10 years, I have seen a great change with school grades, especially in high school. If you were born prior to 2000, you may have also noticed something different too. An “A” or “B” grade is the norm. “C” students struggle. “D” students not only struggle, but the “red flag” is revealed to educators, where these students are normally targeted for additional educational intervention.

Before the millennium, many schools were more frugal with dishing out a plethora of high grades. I don’t feel comfortable judging this, but I can comfortably say that many “A” students of today were the “C” students of the yesteryear. That is why college testing is a key component for determining the right match between a student and a college.

The bottom line is this: An “A” high school student is not guaranteed college success. But a strong reader and test-taker is the perfect fit for all colleges. Over the years, I have come to find many struggling college students who were “A” students in high school. This is because universities expect students to have the ability to read at the college level. Most of my student referrals are from therapists who are treating them because of low self-esteem, high anxiety, and depression. They sought help because their issues resulted from their college struggle. For this reason, students who have eked into their reach college may not have chosen correctly. But being a strong reader with strong learning skills would have alleviated this.

Parents take note!

If you are a parent who sees that your student is not reading at college level, get help. Your child will thank you and the ability to read well will open many opportunities for both educational and professional endeavors.

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